January 31, 2016

Normal conversation

While still on the job hunt, I was discussing the different interviews I had been on in France with my brother. I had gone to job interviews at eight different companies at this point, and at most of these, I was offered a beverage (coffee/tea/water) at the very beginning of the interview.

At interview #8, however, no such offer was made. Eventually, after about an hour of interviewing, the interviewer asked me if I would like to go join everyone for le pause café.

Several employees were enjoying their mid-morning coffee break, and I was able to join in on everyday conversations and really get a feel for the place.

After agreeing that it is an interesting interview tactic, as it allows the employer to observe the interviewee in a social setting, and it allows the interviewee the opportunity to see if they’d be a good fit, my brother asked me, “well, what did you guys talk about?”

“Oh, you know, just normal stuff… mostly about vineyards, different wine producing regions, and champagne caves.”

“Normal? ...that is so French!”

I hadn’t even noticed.

Visiting champagne caves in Reims!

January 3, 2016

First French Christmas

Being unable to re-enter the French territory if I left it due to visa complications, I celebrated Christmas this year in France, with the Frenchboyfriend and his family; my very first French Noël.

Christmas in Paris.

French Christmas is all about family and food, a lot of food, with a little bit of Père Noël thrown in.

The celebrations started on Christmas Eve, with a family dinner lasting from 7pm till 2:30am, with about an hour of that dedicated to opening gifts. The rest? Drinking delicious champagne and wine, and eating several courses, from appetizers to a cheese course, and of course way too many desserts to count.

I learned that in the South it is traditional to have 13 desserts. We didn’t have quite thirteen, but we did have homemade chocolate covered clementines, marzipan fruits, bugnes, gingerbread cake, and bûche de noël, to name a few.

Christmas decorations in a small skiing village next to Frenchboyfriend's hometown.

In between the cheese coarse and the dessert coarse, who to my wandering eyes should appear but none other than the not-very-elusive Père Noël!

France’s equivalent to Santa Claus actually shows up while the children are awake to bring them gifts. While there weren’t any children present, Frenchboyfriend’s grandpa still dressed up as Père Noël and added a bit of Christmas magic to the evening.

French children also don’t need to hang their stockings by the chimney with care, as the French get their gifts directly from the big guy and don’t have stockings at all.

This probably explains why Frenchboyfriend’s family kept referring to all the gifts under the tree as being from Père Noël. There didn’t seem to be the same distinction between family gifts vs. Santa gifts that I have in my family.

Christmas day we underwent the eating endeavor again, only this time with the dad’s side of the family.

But meals didn’t stop there! We continued to have lovely dinners with various other members of the family and good family friends for the next several days. And then what else do you do for New Year’s Eve but eat a big meal?

November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving: year seven.

I waslucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving twice this year.

For maybe the first year ever in France, I celebrated Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving thanks to a wonderful American friend who came to visit and cooked a wonderful dinner. I also had my traditional Thanksgiving potluck, using my tried and true recipes.

As has become a personal traditional, here are five things I’m thankful for this year:

1. The Frenchboyfriend
This year was the hardest of my life thus far (and I know this means I’ve had a great life). I was unemployed for almost a year. I felt helpless, as after several interviews I was told that my lack of experience is the reason I wasn’t getting the job. I felt anxious, convinced that I would never find a job and end up homeless.

All this to say, I was in a very dark place. What made it a little less dark? The French boyfriend. He supported me through all of this, comforted me when all I could do was cry, and kept up a never ending mantra of “of course you’re going to get a job” and “no one stays unemployed forever” and “you’re not going to end up homeless.”

I am so thankful for him.

2. Léonard

Introducing, Léonard!

After ten years of wanting a cat of my own, for my 28th birthday I gifted myself an adorable rescue 4-month-old Siamese kitten named Léonard. He is more than I could ever have hoped for. He purrs when we get up in the mornings and when we come home from work, he loves to cuddle, he’s super playful, loves to be with people, and best of all he loves to be carried, which was my childhood wish for my childhood cats who of course hated it.

Sleeping on my lap

He’s only been a part of the family for two months, but I already can’t imagine things without him (even if he did eat the fiberoptic cable and destroy a small house plant).

3. Family
My parents have been so supportive of me this whole year. I am so thankful to have parents that encourage me to follow my passion and pursue my life in France. I am also thankful for my brother, for letting me be silly and weird and for always reminding me how much I’m missed back home.

Parents visiting Paris

4. Friends
I am thankful for old friends and new for commiserating with me about how hard it is to friend a job and for helping me forget my troubles. I am especially thankful for the outpouring of love and concern I received following the recent Paris attacks. Thank you all.

5. The New Job
I am so so so thankful to be once again employed. It was a struggle, but the job I have now was worth the wait. I am very excited and interested in the project I’m working on, my coworkers are super nice, my boss really believes in me and shows appreciation for my work, my contract is until May 2018 (the length of the project), and I get ten weeks of vacation a year. What more could a girl ask for?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

August 29, 2015

Bois de Boulogne

The Bois de Boulogne is a large Parisian park found on the city limits. It is twice as big as New York’s Central Park, and yet Parisian’s love to complain about the city’s lack of green space (maybe because if it’s not found in the center it counts less?).

Regardless, the Parisians do love their outdoor space and most weekends the bois is packed with families, friends, and dogs, picnicking, biking, or even rowing around.

Le Bois de Boulogne

On this particular Saturday I had gone to the bois alone to get my fill of Vitamin D and catch up on some reading.

After sufficiently soaking in the sun’s rays, I was walking home, still very much in the park, but a bit separated from the merry makers, when a twentysomething French woman approached me.

Expecting her to ask for directions and feeling proud that, as someone who lives near the park and has spent a good amount of time there, I would be able to guide her, she caught me a little off guard when she asked,

Excusez-moi? Bonjour… so I really need to pee and I was wondering if I went behind this bush, if you wouldn’t mind watching out to make sure nobody goes by?"

“Ah,” I chuckled, fully understanding her predicament, as France is notorious for it’s lack of public bathrooms, “bien sûr, pas de soucis (of course, no worries).” I smiled.

The Eiffel Tower is even visible from the bois.

We walked over to the secluded bush. I turned around to watch for passerbys while she presumably walked behind the bush to take care of business.

It turned out that my presence wasn’t necessary; nobody came close to where we were. There was one man, however, who started off down the path towards us, found a different bush a ways off, saddled on up to it, and promptly started peeing.

I guess I was unknowingly walking down the chemin de pipi (pee trail).


On a side note, there ARE public bathrooms in the Bois de Boulogne that are also free of charge in the jardin de Shakespeare, so don't feel obligated to urinate publically. Considering the park is so big, you might want to plan ahead to give yourself enough time to get there, though.

May 30, 2015

Public Displays of Affection

Compared to America, the French are very pro-PDA. Nobody thinks twice if a couple is canoodling on the metro, or exchanges a quick kiss on the lips for a greeting.

I am a supporter of PDA. I like to partake in cuddling and even small kisses in front of friends or strangers on the street.

That said, I was forced to observe a little bit too much PDA the other day on the metro. This was one of those metro rides where the car is packed and you are sort of stuck looking in a certain direction.

I had a couple right in front of me, and it started out all right. They were holding hands, putting their arms around each other, all in all pretty tame.

Until, with horror, I saw this young man lean forward towards his girlfriend’s face, mouth open, going for a kiss, tongue first.

Then both tongues were out, touching, right in front of my face.

And I thought to myself, “man, the French are a little too okay with PDA.”
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